Monday, March 13, 2017

Unexpected Speakers and Student Grant Winners

March 2017: Unexpected Speakers and Student Grant Winners

Despite taking the month to focus in on some of the literary things we need to study, we are still thinking about our exhibition project and the ultimate classroom. Last week, I unexpectedly heard back from Hyland Software about coming in as guest speakers. I eagerly accepted, unaware of what they would be talking about and how it would related to the classroom. Needless to say, it was a hit and a great connection for the students. Caitlin and Rob from Hyland had a lot to share. Caitlin began by sharing about the work environment at Hyland and the ways Hyland had created a culture focusing on getting people to enjoy what they do. She showed the students pictures of their slides, game rooms, trails, bikes, and different get social events they had. Many of students thought that creating similar environments that would allow kids to take breaks, express themselves, and think in different ways would be something that an "ultimate school" would need.

Following Caitlin's presentation, Rob, a software designer at Hyland, shared a little bit about what he does. He did a wonderful job answering students questions and sharing with them ideas about how they could learn about coding and problem solving at their age now. He encouraged them to think about how much of what a programmer does is solving problems. It was noticeable how much the students enjoyed asking questions and finding out more about how things work.

As Caitlin and Rob wrapped up, they shared about some of the awesome programs Hyland has available to middle and highschoolers. Many students inquired about programs for elementary students, and while Hyland does't have any of those programs yet, Caitlin encouraged them to begin pursuing coding on their own to prepare for opportunities like this in the future.

On a completely different note, during the month of February, I issued a grant challenge to my students. Through donations from our PTA and several teachers, I had $50 worth of gift certificates to spend at Lakeshore Learning. Instead of ordering something random from their catalog, I asked students to write a grant. The task: choose an item(s) from the Lakeshore catalog that cost no more than $50 and write a grant detailing why it was needed in our classroom citing evidence to back up their choice. During this process, I chose not to read any of their grants. Students were allowed to work with partners, but the entire task was done without adult help. I had 6 teams of students choose to write grants. I couldn't have been more impressed with their effort. It was a learning experience for all of those students involved. In the end, working with Mrs. Carol Winter, one of our board members and research assistants, and Mrs. Deb Wadden, our IB coordinator, we selected 3 gentlemen and their grant for pipe builders and play stix for our classroom. I included their grant below!